Under Construction: Building on Vegan Rights in the UK Construction Industry

by Anonymous (The author of this blog entry requested to remain anonymous)

 

The engineering sector, and the construction industry in general, have never been considered as vegan friendly environments. Even just a few years ago, it was almost impossible to get safety footwear and other employment accessories made of anything else other than skin from nonhuman animals. As for vegan food options during meetings and conferences, not only one would have to ask for it in advance and have it wrapped away from the rest of the “food” with a huge label on it saying “VEGAN”, but also it would draw lots of attention, jokes and even insults.

Since the Equality Act 2010 came into force, things have slowly started changing. Sometimes the changes are subtle and hard to notice but some other times they are prominent and easy to spot. For example, a few years back, companies would challenge all requests for non-skin shoes and gloves, etc. and they would even ask employees to pay for the alternatives. These days, synthetic safety footwear is a standard option in many construction companies. Even tablet and mobile phone covers include synthetic options. Vegan food options are provided as standard during many conferences and meetings, while more and more catering companies offer vegan options without the need to order them way in advance.

There are of course engineering and construction companies that are still behind in providing for vegans and complying to the Equality Act. Veganism is still far from being fully accepted and accommodated in engineering and construction sectors. However, more and more companies promote equality, respect, tolerance and diversity in the work environment and that means that they strive to provide suitable work wear for vegans and comply with the requirement to deal with offensive comments, jokes and insults (against vegans) in some cases as disciplinary offences.

There are challenges however that haven’t been addressed yet and they can be rather difficult for vegans. These challenges do not just concern the construction sector. For instance, business lunches, dinners and other social events with clients or suppliers can still be rather uncomfortable if you are vegan. You may be required to sit around the same table while people eat flesh and, in some cases, even pay for their “food” (although you will be reimbursed). And of course, you may be required to participate in business/team building events that are revolving around animal abuse, such as horse racing. Unfortunately, on many occasions, objecting to participate to these employment obligations is not yet understandable nor acceptable. Businesses do not proactively protect vegans but instead they expect employees to participate in these business practices, regardless of their ethical convictions.

More has to be done in order to inform and educate businesses about the legal status of veganism and raise awareness that vegans must be treated the same way as any other protected group of people. It is the law and it is the right of every vegan to be treated fairly.

Considering the changes that have taken place since the Equality Act came to force back in 2010, we can be hopeful that more positive change is on its way for vegans in the workplace. Veganism is rapidly growing in popularity and this will surely encourage a major shift in what is regarded as acceptable in our employment.

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